I want to use this blog to discuss the extended consequences of forced disappearances and the “knock on” or continuing effects it has on the people and communities affected. Often times these unseen consequences are the most lasting and difficult to correct. As we often say here at EPAF it is critical to go beyond just giving bones back to people and work to address the fundamental injustices behind the forced disappearances and the context of the conflict.
When someone is disappeared, like the more than 15,000 here in Peru, it is difficult to truly measure the human impact of that event and how it will change the lives of their family and those that knew the person. There are multiple ways to categorize this and ways to approach this issue, but I want to approach it from an economic and social standpoint at this time.
Because forced disappearances take place during the course of a conflict, the use of forced disappearance is often employed by participants in that conflict as a way to punish or remove threats to themselves or their cause. Other times it is simply utilized to instill terror or because of a lack of coherent strategy or leadership. As a result of the previous reasons, the vast majority of those killed through disappearance are working age people. Those that are younger or older are not seen as threats and typically (although certainly not always) are not actively targeted to the same extent. The result of this is a loss of the most economically productive portion of the population through disappearance and/or their displacement from the area. Often, these communities do not recover in terms of population or lost economic activity and are left in untenable economic situations even after the conflict has ended and all is supposed to be better.
The displacement of people is another unseen consequence as well as the breakdown of communities. During the course of the Peruvian conflict, the population of the conflict zones that fled often ended up in cities on the coast. The population of Lima swelled during the years 1980-2000 with people from the mountains seeking refuge and caught between the Shining Path and the military. The fact that once here they will not return has two effects. First, these people often live on the fringes of society in Lima and face discrimination, marginalization and lack of access to services (sometimes even water and electricity). Second, the population not returning to their traditional communities does not allow those communities to ever fully recover and breaks traditional community and familial bonds. Socially, this has been cited by some as the cause of the loss of cultural and historical traditions and connections between different communities.
Finally, the last point I want to discuss are the various psyco-social problems that face the survivors of the conflict and the unexplored avenues of support. EPAF includes psyco-social support in many of its activities and in the Peruvian Field School as well. This support begins to address the problems that many have with dealing with their experiences during the conflict and the lack of access to this type service. Alcoholism, PTSD and other concerns represent the hidden scars of the conflict on those that lived it.
The previous mentioned issues are often unseen or misinterpreted in post-conflict societies. They represent the scars on the psyche and collective memory of a society struggling to deal with its past. Although hidden from view these problems lie just below the surface and continue to affect the same people and communities that suffered during the conflict. Unfortunately, not everything ends when the bombs stop going off.
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted Aug 26th, 2014